Is your business crisis-proof? Crisis management tips for small business owners
As small business owners know well, any interruption in businss can have a huge effect. Here are some tips for preparing for a crisis.
I remember it perfectly. It was a Wednesday morning. I was on the phone talking to my dad, giving up an update of my son's recovery from surgery and was excited that my son would probably be home that weekend. And then the phone beeped, I had another call waiting on the line. That phone call would rock my world... My son had cancer. I was told that treatment could take as long as six months and to prepare to spend the first four weeks in the hospital. The doctor said to come up right away. Not a couple of hours, right now! Everything, including my business, would just have to wait.
All small business owners will experience a crisis at some point. It can be a major crisis such as a computer breaks down, the backup didn't work, and the files from the last six months are lost. Or maybe it will be minor, like a bout with the flu and work may have to be put on hold for a week. But what about a long-term crisis such as an illness that may affect you, a spouse, a parent, or a child that lasts a few months or longer? Are you and your business prepared?
As you read the following crisis management tips, realize that I did the exact opposite; learn from them so you don't repeat my mistakes! ; )
1. Have a list of resources.
I always thought it would be a great idea to have a list of resources for when I needed to outsource a task, provide coverage for vacation, or referrals for when I was at full capacity. I just never got around to getting this list together! Trying to find resources for my clients at the last minute while in the middle of a crisis was not ideal. So stop procrastinating and get together your list of resources. You will feel better knowing that in your absence, your clients and/or customers are being taken care of.
2. Learn to say No.
Laura Wheeler of Firelight Web Studio, a friend who offered great survival-mode tips as a mother of a child who also has cancer, put it to me this way: "You can't go on like you did before. You have to cut out everything that is not essential. You'll have to learn to tell people "no" and not feel guilty."
This may be hard for some, and trust me, it was hard for me too. But it doesn't help you or your clients to minimize or downplay the situation. Your clients may think you can handle their workload when the reality is that you cannot. Your customers and clients need to know this and the sooner you set expectations the better.
3. Keep it simple.
What I mean by this is try to simplify your business AND your life. Switch to a laptop so that you can take your business mobile should you have to travel or be away from home for a length of time; use an online backup service so that backing up is automatic and off-site; try to do as many daily/weekly/monthly items, such as newsletters, ahead of time.
If you use virtual assistants, make sure to have an updated copy of a procedures manual and password list so that he/she can step in during your absence without experiencing a lag in customer service.
4. Accept change.
You need to realize that your business may never be the same. You will have to adjust to your new situation and this may mean working fewer hours, having fewer clients, or moving to a portable-type of workload.
As Laura rebuilt her business, what she found was that it was so much better and so much more focused than it had been before. Sort of like a big “do over.”
How you handle your crisis will ultimately affect your business, positively or negatively. You can minimize the stress and make the most of a bad situation by planning for the inevitable, keeping a positive attitude, and knowing that you WILL survive.
Special thanks to Laura Wheeler of Firelight Web Studio (http://www.firelightwebstudio.com) for her insight and great advice. Laura and her team offer many web design ideas for micro-businesses (one person work-at-home folks) through her website via many free articles and other resources. She is a wonderful person and offers amazing customer service!
Copyright 2008 Lisa Wells.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Wells is a Certified eMarketing Associate who partners with coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, managing their many online marketing needs. Move your business to the next level and up your e-marketing game - sign up for her FREE e-course "e-Marketing Toolbox Essentials" at http://www.emarketingtoolboxessentials.com, where she shares ideas, tips, strategies, and do's and don'ts.